Department: Missoula Police Department Rank: Sergeant Age: 31 Tour of Duty: 8 years End of Watch: Tuesday, January 27, 1976 Cause of Death: Gunfire (Accidental)
The morning of January 27, 1976, Sgt. Donald E. Gregory was killed when he responded to a report of a man with a gun.
Gregory and patrolman Thomas Wivell both responded to a Northside disturbance where a man was reported to be brandishing a gun. When they arrived on scene they both went into the basement to arrest 21-year old Wyatt Wade Coombs. Officer Wivell was the first into the basement when a struggle broke out. The 12-gauge shotgun Wivell was carrying accidentally discharged during the fight, striking and killing Gregory as he was coming down the stairs to assist. Coombs was taken into custody and charged with the original offense of aggravated assault.
Donald Gregory was born in Missoula and raised in Drummond, Montana to a single father. Having a good reputation, through honesty and hard work, was imparted to him at a young age by his father. Even as a young boy, Don wanted to be a cop. After high school he joined the U.S. Navy where he was assigned to Shore Patrol and got his first taste of law enforcement.
Sgt. Gregory enjoyed working in the Patrol Division his entire career. Described as a soft-spoken officer, he would use this to his advantage in diffusing volatile situations. He was also described as quiet and self-reflective. Fellow officers said he was known for having a good reputation both in law enforcement and in the eyes of the public. This is one of the reasons children at Rattlesnake School named the park at Van Buren and I-90 after Sgt. Gregory.
Don Gregory had served the Missoula Police Department and community for eight years. He left behind his wife, Wanda, and daughters Tori, Danelle, Becky and Barbie.